The Australian, January 15, 2007
lack millions of brides
By Jane Macartney
CHINA will be short of 30 million brides within 15 years, according
to an official report into the country's burgeoning population.
About one in every 10 men aged between 20 and 45 - equivalent
to almost the entire population of Canada - will be unable to
find a wife.
The findings, from the State Population and Family Planning Commission,
outline bleak prospects - and not only for bachelors.
The report says the gender imbalance could result in social instability
- a threat that the Communist Party regards as the greatest risk
to its grip on power.
It is almost three decades since China's rulers implemented a
strict "one couple, one child" policy.
It replaced Chairman Mao Zedong's focus on a high birth rate,
which had been intended to ensure that China could fend off enemies
with human-wave warfare. The unintended consequences of those
severe controls have become increasingly pronounced.
China's population is forecast to peak at 1.5 billion in 2033.
That growth, coupled with demographic imbalances, will threaten
social stability, the economy, the environment and jobs.
One effect of China's strict population control has been a jump
in gender selection of babies. The traditional preference for
a son means that more and more women abort their baby if an early-term
ultrasound examination shows it to be a girl.
Officials deny that the gender imbalance is a result of the family-planning
It is illegal for doctors to tell parents the results of an ultrasound
test without a medical reason, though many do so.
As a result, abortions of female fetuses are widespread, especially
in rural areas, as parents try to ensure that the one child they
are allowed by law is a boy.
China's gender ratio for newborn babies in 2005 was 118 boys
to 100 girls: compared with 110 to 100 in 2000.
In some regions, the sex ratio has ballooned to 130 boys to 100
girls. That compares with an average for industrialised countries
of between 104 and 107boys for every 100 girls.
Tradition favours boys over girls, because men are seen as the
main family breadwinner and in China only a son can carry on the
family line. Daughters are expected to leave the home and become
members of their husband's family.
Anxious government officials have launched a country campaign,
painting slogans on walls of village houses that exhort parents
to value their daughters: "Having a daughter is as good as
having a son."
The population report said: "We need to develop a 'movement
to embrace girls' ... and contain the trend towards greater gender
Chinese officials have given no clues as to how they plan to
find wives for the battalions of bachelors now growing up in Chinese
However, the kidnapping of baby girls is becoming increasingly
common as families seek a future bride for their only son.
Trade in women is also a problem in many rural areas where poor
farmers are unable to attract a bride.
The Government is not yet ready to loosen its birth control policies
and demonstrates pride in its achievement of preventing 400 million
births through its one-child policy.
The authorities are instead promoting measures to curb the adoption
of babies - almost all of whom are girls - by foreigners to ensure
that they grow up in China.
The number of people of working age - between 15 and 64 - will
increase from 860 million in 2000 to 1.01 billion in 2016, according
to the report. That is more than the total in the world's developed
In the next 20 years, up to 300 million people will leave their
farms and move to towns and cities. The report said: "Our
country is currently experiencing the largest human movement and
migration in history."
China is having to cope with becoming the world's first country
to grow old before it grows rich. The number of people older than
60 will jump from the current 143million to 430million by 2040.